Nintendo Wii U Reviews

Skylanders: Trap Team Review

Skylanders: Trap Team
Developer: Toys for Bob
Price: $75
Platform: PS3, PS4, Wii-U, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
MonsterVine was supplied with a PS4 copy of Skylanders: Trap Team

It’s Skylanders season again which means parents everywhere are weeping as their children force them into the local toy store to drop $100+ on new figures for the latest game. Every year Skylanders gets a bit different but still feels more or less the same and nothing’s changed with the release of Trap Team.

Everything’s gone to hell again in Skylands but this time Kaos isn’t the one behind it, although everything is still sorta his fault. Kaos, with the intent of breaking out the Doom Raiders from prison, accidentally breaks them out and they begin to wreck havoc across Skylands. Kaos decides to join up with you since he doesn’t like being sidelined by the other baddies and then of course predictably betrays you at the end. That’s the basic gist of the incredibly simplistic plot but what else can you expect from a game marketed to children? Each level basically amounts to characters telling you to go do this thing because reasons and then you go do them. It’s boring, predictable, and perfect children who love this kind of goofy stuff.

The gameplay hasn’t changed much from the previous titles besides the new inclusion of being able to attack while jumping. You’ll still roll through various levels beating up hordes of enemies, collecting more money than you’ll ever need, leveling up your Skylanders, and occasionally performing block puzzles. Trap Team definitely isn’t lacking in variety with so many game types thrown in here it’ll make you wonder what game they didn’t rip a concept off. You’ll go through 2D platforming stages, Angry Bird-esque levels, flying sections, PaRappa styled rap battle minigames, tower defense sections, and of course card games with the return of Skystones. Frankly, there’s a whole lot to do in Trap Team but none of it is exactly good or bad, just solid enough to work. Well okay, the rap battle minigames are downright awful but everything else is alright.

So first Skylanders introduced us to their toys/video-game hybrid concept, then Giants introduced giant characters, and last year’s Swap Force had characters that could be split in half which leaves you wondering what this year’s gimmick could be. Thankfully, it’s a lot more engaging that the last two. Each level has certain boss characters that you’ll fight and can then trap in a trap crystal once defeated. You slap the crystal into the slot on the portal and you’ll capture the villain; the neat part is how they’ll speak through the speaker on the portal to comment on things happening in the game. With a villain trapped in a crystal you can then hit the swap button to instantly switch to playing as that villain for a certain period of time before the crystal has to recharge. Each villain also has their own specific redemption quest you can do that will change their color palette and make their comments a little friendlier. You can also only trap villains in specific traps so a life element boss like Broccoli Guy can only be captured with a life element trap. If you have a villain currently trapped in your crystal any other villains defeated (of that trap color) will then be sent to your villain vault where you can swap out one villain for the other. It’s a neat concept that works and it’s fun to hear the villains either shit talking you through the speaker or just commenting on cool stuff happening on screen.

The underlying issue with this new system is how scummy it ends up feeling. You need a fire element trap to capture a fire villain and each trap only holds a single villain with the game encouraging you to have multiples of each element so you don’t have to keep going back to your base to switch out the villain in your trap. The kicker here is that each trap costs an insane $7 each; even $3 would be pushing it for something that’s not even a toy you could put on a shelf. The price for these traps is just outrageous considering the already crazy amount the game expects you to spend on figures and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Skystones is back from Giants which will either get you excited or annoyed. This time around it plays more like a card game where you’ll place a card on one of three slots and at the end of the turn whichever cards are on the field will attack the other player. Each card has its own life and power so you have to balance the strategy of placing a card next to an opponent’s card to take a hit/destroy his card, or placing one on an empty spot to directly attack your opponent’s health. Certain cards even have special abilities like dealing damage to every enemy card on the field or healing you. There’s not much to it but it’s a decent enough distraction.

The newest mode to play here is the Kaos Mode which is basically your typical wave based horde mode with some tower defense elements thrown in for good measure. Each stage consists of around 10 or so waves and you’ll fight hordes of enemies on your way to victory. You’ll be able to build towers in set locations to help out but expect to do most of the heavy lifting. Kaos Mode is a decent enough feature but just like with everything Skylanders sets out to do it’s functional but nothing groundbreaking.

Activision seems content to not fix my core problem with the game and that’s its unrelenting slow pace. The characters still move at a sluggish pace and you can’t fast forward through text dialog with your only option being to straight up skip them or listen to each lines dreadfully slow delivery. You have to wait for the game to load whatever menu you get into and it’s long enough to drop into annoying territory. The entire game just feels super slow and I understand it’s a kids game but I doubt the horde of children that play this series would riot if they made things play a little faster. Considering they’re just now getting around to adding jumping attacks to the game I’d be willing to bet a sprint function will be added next year.

The Final Word
Through incredibly slow improvements each Skylanders game gets better than the last and you’ve got to wonder how long Activision can keep this successful train going before it loses steam. Till then, Trap Team is the best Skylanders to play if you’re interested in taking the plunge.

– MonsterVine Rating: 3.5 out of 5 – Fair

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